Scope of a project helps the project manager to focus on key deliverables and provides a roadmap which managers can use to assign budget, schedule and work appropriately. However, more often than not, improper planning leads to project scope creep which is referred to as the uncontrolled or continuous changes in project scope after the commencement of the project. The report identifies that the key causes of project scope creep include including users early enough, a lack of change control, underestimating the project complexity and gold plating. Moreover, scope creep increases the work and requirement for resources and budget which can impact the capacity of the project manager to make sure that the project is delivered on time. This makes it important to effectively manage the same. The report recommends that project managers should identify all stakeholders and understand their goals, clearly define project scope, and should take action as early as possible.
The scope of a project involves the idea of the “sum total of activities which needs to be executed to realize the already determined project goals”. The said activities involve documenting and determining a list of certain deliverables, costs, goals, deadlines and tasks. This helps to determine the project boundaries and responsibilities of project team members. In project management, such documentation aids the team to focus on key deliverables and provides a roadmap which managers can use to assign budget, schedule and work appropriately. This makes the realization of the project scope one of the mast important criterion on which the likelihood of achieving good results is dependent upon.
This scope would include careful maintenance of project schedules and project deadlines. Pheng (2018) mentioned that a failure to manage the project scope has the possibility of dismantling the entire project structure. Moreover, even though the project scope sets the boundaries of the responsibilities of a project manager, still, it is quite naïve to think that the scope remains unchangeable and static. In addition to this, the idea of managing changes in project scope becomes important, because some of the changes can be desirable; however, if project scope changes are not properly managed it can lead to severe consequences for the project success (Sanghera 2019).
Scope creep, also known as “feature creep” or “requirement creep” is referred to as the uncontrolled or continuous changes in the scope of the project after the commencement of the project (Farok and Garcia 2016). Moreover, according to Madhuri (2017), it is a process through which a project extends beyond its original size. It occurs when the deliverables, features or scope of the project expand from what was determined in during the initial planning stage. Project scope creep can have both positive and negative impact on the success of the project.
Agyeku,-Mensah and Knight (2017) mentioned that the root causes of scope creep in a project include poor analysis of the project requirements, not including users early enough, a lack of change control, underestimating the project complexity and gold plating. Authors further stated that customers do not always have a proper sense of what they want and when project managers fail to spend adequate time gathering the requirements of the project, it can result in the need to add extra resources, increase the duration and cost in case new requirements emerge. Amoatey and Anson (2017) agreed with the same and further added that scope creep can also occur because of a lack of precision and thoroughness in the original specification document, and allowing direct or unmanaged contact amongst team participants and the client.
Hofland (2018) mention the role of customers and suggested that customers often try to get extra work “on the cheap” and increase the scope of the project as the project progresses. In addition to this, Whitaker (2016) suggested that stakeholders can also cause project scope creep by changing the problem they want to solve. The author also mentioned that project scope creep can also occur in case project requirements are not continuously aligned with the objectives of the business or the project, which causes the project teams to fall back of their judgement while deciding whether they should include individual requirements. Moreover, although different authors presented different causes for the scope creep in a project, the common thread connecting them includes a lack of foresight and planning and improper analysis of the project requirements.
Maduri, Rao and Murthy (2016) stated that very few projects are ever completed as per their original budget and plan, and that change is inevitable in project management. However, uncontrolled or poorly managed changes can severely harm the project, in terms of budget overruns, project failures and missed deadlines. Moreover, increasing the scope of a project increases the work and requirement for resources and budget which can impact project manager’s ability to ensure timely delivery of the project. On the other hand, Ajmal, Khan and Al-Yafei (2019), mentioned that in respect of software projects, changes in project’s scope can have a significant impact on the projects developed using traditional methods, however, there is the negligible impact of scope creep on a project that is developed with an agile approach.
This suggests that the project characteristics also influence whether scope creep will have a considerable influence on project success or not. Shivakumar (2018) also agreed with the said conclusion and mentioned that scope creep does not affect projects with agile methodology. In terms of large scale construction project, scope creeps dynamic complexity to the process and affects the expectation of customers. In addition to this, Guanci and Bjork (2019) reported that unclear budget makes it significantly difficult for a project manager to raise resources required to effectively execute project activities, along with undertaking planned activities which affect project success. This is so because when project resources and planned activities are poorly implemented project cannot become successful and it often leads to failure of the project to realize project objectives.
In respect of the aforementioned causes of scope creep in a project, Patil (2016) mentioned that in order to prevent scope creep in a project, project managers should make sure that they properly understand the project vision. Project managers should spend an adequate amount of time agreeing on and documenting project objectives with the customers. Moreover, Belanger, Gorecki and Espinoza (2019) stated that it is also a good practice to produce a project initiation document which clearly defines the project deliverables and the project result. In addition to this, project managers should also try to involve the users from the beginning of the project and should encourage them to take part in the design and requirements phase. In addition to this, a robust work breakdown structure (WBS) which decomposes project deliverables into work packages should be used for a detailed analysis of project requirements.
Hodge (2018) mentioned that to prevent project scope creep, it is important to implement a change control processes within project management. It is not realistic to think that the requirements of the project will not change. A change control process is used to review, approve or reject a proposed change which helps to avoid unnecessary changes in the project scope. Also, project managers can develop a proper schedule of the project to create a thorough list of tasks and ativities. Such a schedule helps to illustrate project requirements, processes to achieve the results and the associated tasks and activities. This helps to cross-reference project activities against requirements and to plan for contingency. Hoylandskjaer (2018) suggested that this will help to avoid scope creep as more often than not, scope occurs because of improper planning. Furthermore, in order to effectively understand the scope creep, it is helpful to look at a real-life example of the way scope creep can occur in an industry.
Sindi (2018) mentioned the case of scope creep in the Saudi construction industry. According to the author, construction is a highly dynamic process and is conditioned by the interplay of both external and internal environment. Considering the same, it is not illogical to assume perpetual changes within the ambit of the project scope to cater for the newly emerged demand. The author used a pre-formulated questionnaire approach to ascertain the view of individuals forms construction companies who are involved in the process. The author found that the issue of scope creep is pervasive in the construction industry to the extent that it is almost inevitable.
Moreover, 88% of the respondents suggested that they have a clear understanding of the concept and 96% mentioned that they have personally encountered the problem in their professional practice. In addition to this, 54% believed that one of the significant barriers to effective scope management is the difficulty in cash inflow and 24% felt that low-profit margins deter contractors and is one of the barriers confronted by construction companies in scope management. In respect of causes responsible for scope creep, 58% of the respondents mentioned a lack of clarity, while 20% mentioned client demand. Moreover, while scope creep can be both negative and positive, 38% stakeholders in Saudi construction industry suggest that scope creep can never be a good thing, while only 12% reported a positive impact of scope creep. The author finally concluded that scope creep threatens the very structure of projects in the Saudi construction industry and that additional workload of scope creeps often dissuades managers from being receptive of change.
Given the adverse effects of scope creep on project success, it is important to have an effective scope creep plan to ensure successful execution of the project activities and tasks. According to Komal, Janujua and Madni (2019) in order to manage project scope creep, one should not begin project without a forming a proper contract. A contract clearly defines the expectations of the client and makes it easier to recognize and manage project scope creep. Moreover, it is important to have an effective backup plan in order to address scope creep. The project manager should try to prioritize communication and to provide your professional input and carry out an appropriate actions. In addition to this, the project manager should remember that it is okay to say no and to decline changes in the project.
Management of scope creep should also include alignment with the work statement to ensure all stakeholders have agreed upon key details on the project scope. On the other hand, Hodge (2018) suggested that project scope creep is unavoidable because more often than not, the best solution of a project emerges during the work. Authors recommended that project managers should set aside 10% of the project budget as “flex” in order to use it for scope creep. Moreover, by accepting the inevitability of the scope creep project team will be able to ascertain whether the scope creep adds value to the project or not. Corvello, Javernick-Will and Ratta (2017) further mentioned that project managers to guard against the tendency of gold plating and to over-deliver on the scope by adding new features.
The below-mentioned recommendations are mentioned in literature for managing project scope creep.
1. Identifying stakeholders and understanding their goals
Before commencing the project, it is recommended to identify interests, requirements and vision of the involved stakeholders (Hodge 2018). This will help to reduce the risk of changes in project scope once the work starts, and also helps to avoid unnecessary conflicts. Project managers should effectively communicate with stakeholders to understand their expectations and should accordingly prioritize project requirements.
2. Clearly defining project scope
In addition to identifying stakeholder expectations, it is recommended to clearly defining the scope of the project in order to remove any ambiguity and uncertainty that can later act as scope creep. This minimizes the risk of misunderstanding and helps to reduce the number of new requirements and requests (Ajmal, Khan and Al-Yafei 2019). This also helps to prevent gold plating.
3. Plan room for project changes
Project managers should implement a change management process which carefully documents the activities required to make necessary decisions and helps to focus on project goals.
4. Taking timely actions
Amoatey and Anson (2017) recommend that project creep should be identified and addresses at its early stage and new requirements and suggestions should be addressed in a timely fashion.
5. Say “no”
According to Shivkumar (2018), project managers should also decline changes in the project. However, they must ensure that they have proper justification for saying no.
In conclusion, the report mentions that scope creep is pervasive in project management. Moreover, even though scope creeps can be both positive and negative, more often than not it results in an adverse impact on project success. The report mentions that improper planning and ambiguity are the major cause for project scope creep and in order to mitigate the impact of scope creep, it is recommended to identify expectations of stakeholders and clearly defining the scope of the project.
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Ajmal, M., Khan, M. and Al-Yafei, H., 2019. Exploring factors behind project scope creep–stakeholders’ perspective. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business.
Amoatey, C.T. and Anson, B.A., 2017. Investigating the major causes of scope creep in real estate construction projects in Ghana. Journal of Facilities Management.
Bélanger, A., Gorecki, P. and Espinoza, J., 2019. Communicating for Project Management Success: Pro-tips from Accidental Project Managers.
Corvello, V., Javernick-Will, A. and Ratta, A.M.L., 2017. Routine project scope management in small construction enterprises. International Journal of Project Organisation and Management, 9(1), pp.18-30.
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Komal, B., Janjua, U.I. and Madni, T.M., 2019, April. Identification of scope creep factors and their impact on software project success. In 2019 International Conference on Computer and Information Sciences (ICCIS) (pp. 1-5). IEEE.
Madhuri, K.L., 2017. Introduction of scope creep life cycle for effective scope creep management in software industries. International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering, 27(4), pp.557-577.
Madhuri, K.L., Rao, J.J. and Murthy, S.V., 2016. Scope creep: implications on customer satisfaction index in software industry. International Journal of Productivity and Quality Management, 19(1), pp.21-37.
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Sanghera, P., 2019. Project Scope Management. In CAPM® in Depth (pp. 135-171). Apress, Berkeley, CA.
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